bridge drawing

A rendering by PennDOT of the proposed North Fork bridges on Interstate 80 in Jefferson County looking toward Walter Dick Memorial Park.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is currently hosting a virtual public meeting for the proposed Interstate 80 North Fork bridges project in Jefferson County until Dec. 22. The meeting can be accessed online by visiting www.penndot.gov/i80NorthFork.

The North Fork bridges project is a candidate for bridge tolling through the Major Bridge Public-Private Partnership Initiative (MBP3I), as part of the PennDOT Pathways program. The bridges cross over the North Fork Redbank Creek in Brookville Borough and Pine Creek Township. 

This final virtual public meeting includes new information about PennDOT's proposed tolling strategy for the North Fork and Canoe Creek (Clarion County) projects because of their proximity on Interstate 80 and public feedback. According to the virtual meeting, PennDOT has decided to pursue one-way tolling at both projects, a change from its initial proposal to toll in both directions.

PennDOT said it will toll westbound traffic at North Fork and eastbound traffic at Canoe Creek. Tolls are expected to be $1 to $2 for passenger cars using an electronic E-Z Pass, with higher rates for toll-by-plate vehicles and medium to heavy trucks.

PennDOT officials have previously explained tolls could be in place for 30 years as part of the proposal, with funds collected through tolls paying for the reconstruction, maintenance and operation of the specific candidate bridge projects. Tolling could begin as early as 2023, varying by project.

PennDOT is reporting a current budget gap of $8.1 billion in highway and bridge funding. The Pathways program identifies potential alternative funding options, including the proposed tolling of nine candidate bridge projects across the state.

The North Fork bridges were built in 1962 and most recently rehabilitated in 2013. According to PennDOT, the eastbound bridge is in poor condition and the westbound bridge is in fair condition. Both bridges are reaching the end of their serviceable lifespan. The proposed project includes the replacement and realignment of the North Fork bridges on I-80, as well as the replacement of the dual I-80 bridges over Jenks Street and the Richardsville Road bridges over I-80, and other improvements.

PennDOT estimates the cost of the North Fork project to be between $165 million and $185 million.

Combined, the North Fork eastbound and westbound bridges are expected to carry approximately 30,897 vehicles daily, according to PennDOT. An estimated 44 percent of the traffic over the bridges is truck traffic.

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The project team will be accepting comments throughout the duration of the virtual meeting comment period, which ends at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 22. Online comments can be submitted directly from the meeting website or via the below methods:

  • Email: i80NorthFork@pa.gov
  • Phone: 814-796-5009
  • Mail: PennDOT District 10, Attn: 1-80 North Fork Bridges Project, 2550 Oakland Avenue, Indiana, PA 15701-3388

The public can also attend an in-person public open house for the project on Wednesday, Dec. 15, from 4:30-7:30 p.m. at Hickory Grove Elementary School, 104 Jenks St., in Brookville. The public can drop by any time during the open house at their convenience.

Ongoing opposition

Just last week, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill intended to put the brakes on PennDOT's current bridge tolling plan. Senate Bill 382 would require PennDOT to publicly advertise toll proposals, take public comment and seek approval from both the governor and the Legislature.

The bill now returns to the Senate for another vote.

Sen. Wayne Langerholc, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and Republican whose 35th District includes part of Clearfield County, unveiled the DRIVE SMART Act earlier this year as a different approach to help address PennDOT’s current reported budget deficit.

Langerholc, who authored Senate Bill 382 as part of his DRIVE SMART initiative, recommends using federal funding as a key component to improve Pennsylvania's interstate bridges.

Congressman Glenn "GT" Thompson, Sen. Cris Dush and Rep. Brian Smith — who represent Jefferson County at various levels of government — have all voiced opposition of PennDOT's bridge tolling proposal.

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